Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is it Submit or is it Obey

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

The word submit put in here in this translation, does not exist in the original. It actually reads,

“Wives, unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”

The verb for verse 22 is borrowed from the preceeding verse 21, “submitting to one another” (not obeying one another), thus forcing the careful reader to carry over the tone and the context as well. So Paul in effect is saying that we are all to submit to one another and that includes wives to husbands. So what is the context? Can we “obey” one another? No, we cannot, because then no one gets to give the orders. The verb upotassomai is used in a form that calls the submitter to order himself into a proper attutude of respect, honor and support of the “one anothers” that he is to be submissive towards. It is this attitude that is to be carried over into the marriage relationship and actually ALL relationships though that will be worked out differently depending on the relationship.

While uptoasso CAN mean to order someone to subordinate themselves to them IF the CONTEXT is that "I am telling you to submit to me", but that is not its only meaning. All words have a range of meanings determined by context.

The word upotasso has different tenses in Greek. Upotasso is indeed often used as one commanding another and expecting them to comply to them.. However, that is not the tense or the manner that Paul used it. Every word has a range of meanings determined according to context and word tense and form.

The word used to mean “obey” throughout the N.T. is (h)upakouo. It is also used to mean “listen, heed” (Vines Expository Dict.). It’s a fairly precise word for the meanings: listen, heed, obey, obedience, obedient. The verb is derived from akouo and was very commonly and frequently used in secular Greek. And generally this obedience includes submission to authorities and leaders.

As a side note some might find it interesting, that in the Greek translation of the O.T. this was the word used when Abraham listened to Sarah and did what she asked of him. He listened and obeyed. ☺

The conclusion one cannot help but reach is that if Paul had meant obey or obedience in the places he used (h)upotasso or more specifically (h)upotassoMAI, then Paul would have used hupakouo instead. Fact is he did not.

The Greek words (h)upotasso and (h)upotassoMAI(menoi) are more complicated.

The base word upotasso means to arrange oneself under, more similar to our word subject, perhaps. It is usually used of one commanding another to “submit”, yield, come under them in some manner. However, in the N.T. Paul uses it almost extensively in the form of upotassoMAI(menoi) and in the sense of a humble attitude, support, and arranging in unity, comformity. Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Pe. 5:5 show it best.

Ephe. 5: 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

I Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Inserting the error of upotassomai meaning obey would make these two verses read that in Ephesians we are all to obey one another, and in Peter we are to first obey our elders and then obey everyone. Just doesn’t work does it. That is because upotassomai does not mean obey. Pure and simple.

The way Paul uses the word almost extensively throughout the N.T. is in that middle voice form. The middle voice is something we don’t have in English and thus have difficulty grasping. But it is when one orders oneself at ones own discretion. This way he is requesting that we all voluntarily, willingly, actively arrange ourselves to yield, support, and fit in to ONE ANOTHER at our own instigation. When Paul uses the verb in verse 21 and then omits the verb in verse 22 to the wives, he is effectively carrying over this attitude and saying of a sort , “wives you too”.

In addition, those who think it means submit to authority of another, there are much better and more precise words available that say exactly that, which Paul did NOT use. That would have been a form of archo (ruler) or despotes (master).


Gem said...

Hi Justa,

I am enjoying your blog immensely! Thank you for all the time and effort and great research!

This has to be a typo and I wonder which couple it refers to?
Adam and Eve? or Abraham and Sarah?

"As a side note some might find it interesting, that in the Greek translation of the O.T. this was the word used when *Adam listened to Sarah* and did what she asked of him. He listened and obeyed

Just A Berean said...

Thank you for pointing that out. It was a dyslexic typo. I'll correct it. Please point out any others you see. :)

Gem said...
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